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jaguarstyper

Review - Zuiderdam, October 8-15, Western Caribbean (long)

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Well, we have been home for exactly one week and I finally have a block of time to sit down and write a review of our October 8th western Caribbean cruise on Zuiderdam. We were on Zuiderdam in April 2004 for the eastern Caribbean itinerary and I will attempt to draw some comparisons. I also noticed some very significant changes on board from April '04 to October '05, some good, some not so good. The last time we cruised with a small group of professional aquaintences on a conference cruise. This time we went as a family, strictly as a vacation. Me, my wife and 17 year old daughter. We were joined by our good friends and their 17 year old daughter. We were both booked in Deluxe Veranda Suites on the aft corner of the ship.

 

Embarkation: We arrived at the port right around noon. HAL has a very nice system for embarkation and this cruise was no exception. We arrived at the port and were unloading the car when our friends daughter showed up. They had arrived at the port just minutes behind us. We dropped the luggage, parked the and headed to check in. We were met by an unusually rude host who chided us for not having our documents complete, which we did. I'm not sure what she was looking at. She insisted we move to the side and fill them out. We simply move on to another host who was also a bit surley and insisted we needed to get into the long line when we were holding a boarding pass for a Deluxe Veranda Suite. We just ignored her and just walked to the suite check in area. The ladies there were much more polite and had us on our way in no time at all. Through security, up the escalator through a short line and we were on the ship. We were greeted on the ship and told that our cabins would not be ready until 1:30 and we could go to any of the public spaces to wait. We told them we wanted to go to the Neptune Lounge, and again, we had to convince them we were in an S suite. I know everyone hated the tacky gold stars, but the did seem to work. Off to the Neptune, which was not crowded at all. We had some drinks and snacks and were told our cabins were ready around 1:15.

 

Cabin: We were in an aft corner suite, 5187 and were not disappointed in any way. Having been in 5186 in April, we pretty much knew what to expect. The sailaway champagne was not there, so I made a call to the Neptune and was told it would be delivered soon. It showed up on Tuesday after several calls. Shortly after getting there, our luggage began to trickle in and we met our cabin steward, Mo. Mo was very efficient, but he did not speak or understand english very well. It was never a problem and he did a great job keeping the cabin neat as a pin. He also made those dreaded towel animals every night on the bed. That almost ruined our cruise. I'm kidding, of course. I thought the animals were fun. We really enjoyed the huge balcony and spent a lot of time there. Our DD said the couch converted into a bed was kind of small, but very comfortable. All in all, the cabin was perfect.

 

Food: The food in the lido was great. DW really enjoyed the Muesli at breakfast and I found the salmon and mushroom omelets to be very addicting. We never really ate lunch in the lido, but did have burgers at the poolside grill a couple times and thought they were good. One of the things I was most disappointed in during our Apr cruise was the food and service in the main dining room. We felt that a lot of the food lacked flavor and the service was rushed. We always felt like we were being hurried along during dinner. I'm happy to report that neither of these complaints applied to this cruise. We all thought the food was greatly improved and the service was relaxed, but attentive. In a word, perfect. Our waiter, Sapto was great. We dined in the Pinnacle Grill one night and felt that it was quite good. But, we also felt like it was not as good as it was in April. The food and presentation just seemed a little less interesting compared to April. The service was certainly not as attentive. I had been looking forward to the chocolate volcano cake for months and was very disappointed when all I got was warm chocolate cake. No volcano, no chocolate decandence, nothing to wait months for. Very disappointing. One of the things that was most disappointing was that Suite passangers are no longer able to eat breakfast and lunch in the Pinnacle Grill for no charge. Just another lost suite amenity.

 

Entertainment: We did go to the Joel Mason show, the late adult Julie Barr show and the Indonesian crew show. We really enjoyed Joel Mason, but thought the show would have been much better if he'd just perform the Elton John songs and give up on the campy comedy and forced audience participation. After a while we felt it was a detraction from his talent and the show. We also went to see the Joel Mason and Zuiderdam Band "Jam Session" in the Crows Nest and had a lot of fun dancing and enjoying the music. Even though they sounded like an amatuer wedding band at times, they were very entertaining. The Julie Barr show was ok. I felt like most of her act was just repeating old jokes you've heard before and she really didnt have a comedic personality at all. I wouldnt cross a busy street to see her again. The crew show was fun as usual. The hardworking crew members never disappoint. There were also 3 NFL games shown on the large screen in the Queens lounge on Sunday as was the Steeler's Monday night game. It was fun watching the game with fellow Steeler fans from around the country.

 

Ports of Call: Other than a Cabana on HMC, we participated in no shore excursions. So, I dont have much to offer in that area. We are pretty much just beach bums and like nothing better than to spend a day at a nice beach. Half Moon Cay, what else can be said about it? Its a great place with a great beach and facilities. We reserved a cabana and enjoyed having it. However, we did miss the unlimited bar service that was offered in April. We were told you now had to get the butler service to have the bar service. Phooey! We were also disappointed to find out that the cabana attendants can no longer deliver lunch to the cabana. Jose, our cabana attendant told me that are no longer allowed to do it because they want you to upgrade to the butler service, which gives you lunch service. Phooey again!! While the cabanas are great, I'm beginning to question if they are worth the cost anymore. It certainly was nice to have the cabana when the storm rolled through. And, I suppose they would be very good on a hot summer day. Grand Cayman was our next stop. We stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe for a T-shirt and then headed for the beach. We were thinking about renting a car and heading to Rum Point, but in the end decided to put our fate in the hands of one of the local cabbies to bring us to a beach. We ended up at Seagrapes on Seven Mile Beach. It was a nice beach with chairs and umbrellas to rent. We pretty much spent the entire day there relaxing on the beach and in the bar. The drinks and food were pretty pricey. I had to keep reminding myself we were in the Cayman Islands, which is not a place known for anything cheap. It was a very good beach day for all of us. The next stop was Costa Maya. Again, we had a beach day in Mahahual. We had booked the Beach Break party through http://costamayacruiseexcursions.com/. When we got off the ship and made our way to the port, we found a very crowded and confusing experience. It was horrible and we couldnt wait to get away from the port. We finally figured out what we needed to do and bought tickets for transportation to Mahahual. There was a long line of people and when we asked about it, we were told it was for a tour and were told to get on this bus to Mahahaul, so we did. We later found out that the line was for the bus and we pretty much cut in front of the entire line. If any of you were in the line, we apologize. We really didnt know. Sorry.:o We made it to Mahahual and tried to find Pez Quadro. No one had head of it. It was pretty funny. We walked through the town and eventually did find it at the far end. We were beginning to wonder... Great beach, great open bar, great food, great service and great food. We loved it and had the best time of the cruise. Mahahual is a funky little Mexican town complete with street vendors and all the normal characters associated with small town Mexican tourist areas. Mexicans are fun and we had a great time hanging out with them. We all speak spanish pretty well and that always helps. Stormy skys eventually urged us to head back to the port. By the time we had returned, one ship was on its way and the other was getting ready to leave. The port was pretty much deserted. We decided to go for a swim in the pool and eventually found our way to the swim up bar. There were many HAL passengers there who had been there all day and were "having fun". Since we were feeling pretty good, we fit right in with this boisterous crowd. Eventually several folks accidentally lost their swimsuits. :eek: Well, that was fun. I thought all the HAL passengers were old and frumpy? Ok, time to get back to the ship for dinner. The next stop was Key West. We've been there several times so our plan was to just head to a few of our favorite bars and just hang out on Duval street for the day. And, thats just what we did. The tram from the ship was very convenient and dropped us off right at the end of Duval Street. We set out from there and made our way about half way up Duval street stopping at several bars along they way. Since DW had a little accident the day before, we were somewhat limited in our mobility. (more on that later) Overall, we enjoyed the ports on the western itinerary. But, we agreed the ports and beaches on the eastern itinerary are much nicer and way more scenic and picturesque.

 

Ship: The Zuiderdam seems to get smacked around a bit on this board and I have never really been able to understand why. While she is not perfect, I feel she is in pretty good condition given her itineraries. We noticed almost no vibration in our cabin, which was a significant change from the April 2004 cruise. And we were essentially in the same cabin. I did notice the broken glass doors and some evidence of vandalism in one of the elevators. Its unfortunate that these things happen. I also noticed the potholes in the hallways. They were noticable, but not hardly a problem. One other thing I saw was several places where the wooden top rail of the railing on the lido and observation deck were missing. Perhaps they were just being refinished, I dont know. The railing on our veranda had just been revarnished and were in perfect condition. The entire cabin was in perfect working condition. The only other miscue was a foul smell coming from the restrooms near the queens lounge. It was worse in April, but its still there. I find it hard to believe this cant be fixed. Maybe they need to just close that restroom until a repair can be made. I think Zuiderdam, with her bright and flashy colors, is a great ship and I would sail her again anyday.

 

Infirmary: During our second day at sea, my DW decided she needed to participate in the Wet and Wacky pool games. When they were looking for volunteers, she raised her hand, while I hid at the bar. Well on the last game, she was running down the pool deck with her empty beer can on her head and felt a pop on her right calf. She realized she couldnt really walk at all, so with the help of the bartender, we found a wheelchair and made our way to the infirmary. The service was prompt and friendly and she was diagnosed with a torn plantaris muscle, given a shot of Toradol and told to rest and keep her leg elevated and on ice. They sent her on her way with crutches. The next day we were to be in Key West. They offered us the use of a wheelchair for the day, which we took advantage of. Key West on crutches would have been impossible. She was determined to not let her injury bring down our cruise, and it didnt. In fact, its given her a few extra weeks off work. She'd rather be at work, though. One thing that surprised us was how many passengers asked about it and wished her well. However, we were a little disturbed by the number of people who asked us if we had called our lawyer when they heard how it happened. Come on people, it was an accident, no ones fault but my wifes. No one will be sued.

 

Passengers: I know this is an unusual thing to review, but I feel I must do it. Most of the passengers on the cruise were great and we met many interesting and friendly people on the ship and at the beaches. However, I dont ever remember encountering so many rude people in one week. Maybe its just me, but several times a day I witnessed people on the ship going above and beyond the call of being rude. I wont go into any of the details, because it would be pointless. By the end of the week I was referring to the trip as the Rude Cruise. What the heck is going on???:confused: I'm amazed at how well the crew can handle the rudeness and to continue to smile.

 

Overall we had a great cruise. It would have been better had my DW not been injured, but thats they way things go sometimes. Even our 17 year old DD had a good time once she got in the swing of things. She really enjoyed goofing around with the friendly and always smiling crew members. She was trying to figure out how to get Mo, our cabin steward to come home with us. LOL

 

Thank you HAL, for a great cruise.

 

Tim

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Awesome review! Thanks for sharing it with us!!! Please consider posting it in the review section :)

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